This past summer, the Letters to a Pre-Scientist program’s mission got a refresh. Our original mission was to demystify STEM careers and empower all students to see themselves as future scientists. After many years of program growth, it was time to revisit this guiding statement and make sure it still aligned with our long term vision.
Here’s the revised mission statement: LPS’ mission is to facilitate one-on-one connections to humanize STEM professionals, demystify STEM career pathways, and inspire all students to explore a future in STEM.
The first change we made was to update all instances of scientists to STEM professionals and science to STEM. We aim to support students’ exploration of as many different types of careers that involve science and math as possible, and we know that means exposing students to careers beyond those with the job title “scientist”. We recognize that ‘STEM professional’ isn’t quite as catchy as ‘scientist’, but it more accurately represents our goal of broadening students’ awareness of the diversity of jobs that exist in the STEM sector.
Second, we wanted to add a few words to describe how our program works: we facilitate one-on-one connections. We believe a critical reason our program is successful at generating student engagement and interest in STEM is because each student is paired with their own pen pal who has expertise in their student’s STEM interests. The letter exchange is initiated by students, and their questions, aspirations, and stories are prioritized in a way rarely found in traditional school assignments. Each student is paired with a different adult who has committed to listening (reading their letters) and curating personalized replies (writing back).
The third change is the addition of a major program goal: to humanize the people in STEM. We believe one way to break down stereotypes about who belongs in STEM is to connect students with real people in STEM and provide pairs the opportunity to learn about each other in an authentic way.
We encourage conversation about STEM and beyond STEM. After our 2018-19 program, 89% of students reported they had something in common with their pen pal. The commonalities ranged from “we both like dogs” to “we both dislike fried chicken” to “we both think Venus is a pretty interesting planet” to “we both want to travel to Greece”. We believe seeing similarities between yourself and someone in STEM makes STEM more accessible and less intimidating.
Some aspects of our mission statement did not change. For example, we remain committed to providing a high-quality experience for all students. That means working with every student on our teachers’ rosters, securing pen pal volunteers fluent in many languages, and providing a wide range of instructional resources so each student can access the program independently.
We still aim to demystify the seemingly endless career possibilities in STEM. We added STEM career pathways to highlight the fact that there are many ways to “become a STEM professional”.
It isn’t our goal to turn every student into a STEM professional. However, we do aim to make sure every student has access to rigorous, engaging opportunities to explore STEM careers that relate to their interests. This way, students can feel confident deciding if STEM is right for them.
Thanks for taking time to learn about our mission. We’ll check in every few years to ensure LPS is making progress towards the day when all students have access to a high-quality STEM education and opportunities to succeed in an increasingly STEM-centric world.